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Concern over Tory MP's repeated trips to Gulf dictatorships

TORY MP Rehman Chishti has made another trip to the Gulf in what critics say is the latest sign of his support for the region’s brutal dictatorships.

The Gillingham MP visited Bahrain today, less than a month after he was appointed the Foreign Office’s special envoy on religious freedom.

In this official role Mr Chishti met the country’s foreign minister — who is also part of its all powerful royal family — to discuss “future collaboration.”

Bahrain has been rocked by pro-democracy protests for decades, since Britain handed over power in the former colony to the ruling Khalifa dynasty.

The family are accused of using sectarianism to stay in power by marginalising the country’s Shia Muslim majority, numbers of whom have been imprisoned for criticising the regime.

Last month political prisoner Ali al-Hajee wrote a letter of protest complaining of religious discrimination by guards at Jau prison.

As part of his trip, Mr Chishti has visited various religious sites including a Shia mosque, a Christian evangelical church and a Hindu temple.

However, Bahraini rights activists have raised concerns about Mr Chishti’s impartiality on this trip because he has previously received hospitality from the Bahrain embassy in London and spoken in support of the regime in Parliament.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei from the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (Bird) told the Morning Star: “Questions must be asked about Rehman Chishti’s credibility.

“Chishti has a long track record of defending Gulf dictatorships, with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia both paying for his visits in the past.

“If Chishti wants to uncover the truth about religious freedom in Bahrain, he should go to Jau prison and visit the hunger strikers protesting for their religious rights.”

In 2017, Bahraini diplomats spent about £2,000 taking Mr Chishti on a parliamentary delegation to the kingdom’s capital Manama, according to his register of interests.

He has also taken almost £6,000 in hospitality from the Saudi embassy in London, which paid for him to attend two parliamentary delegations to Riyadh in 2016 and 2011 to “strengthen political ties with the country,” as well as earning £46,000 from a Saudi think tank.

Mr Chishti’s office passed the Morning Star’s request for comment on to the Foreign Office, which had not responded as the Star went to press.

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